The Impact of Abuse and Gender on Psychopathology, Behavioral Disturbance, and Psychotropic Medication Count for Youth in Residential Treatment

Amy Badura Brack, Jonathan C. Huefner, Michael L. Handwerk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study examined the relationship between gender, abuse history, and clinical change in a residential treatment program for youth with emotional and behavioral disturbance. Admission data and data collected after 1year of treatment or at discharge were examined for 1,303 youth. Measures included the Suicide Probability Scale, Child Behavior Checklist, and the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children. Data also included medication count, demographic data, and history of sexual or physical abuse or both. At intake, girls scored significantly more pathologically than boys on 9 out of 12 measures. At intake, abused youth indicated more hostility, anxiety, and mood disorder symptoms as well as psychotropic medication usage than nonabused youth. Youth improved significantly on all outcome measures with treatment, although interaction effects indicate some differing treatment responses by abuse history or gender. After treatment, girls still scored significantly higher than boys on 6 of 8 outcome measures, and abused youth, especially youth experiencing both sexual and physical abuse, had significantly higher anxiety, affective, behavior, and eating disorder symptom counts and were on more psychotropic medications than nonabused youth. Although behaviorally focused treatment was associated with improvement on every measure, the most important implication of our study is that a singular treatment approach does not fit all youth completely as reflected by continuing treatment needs in our most troubled youth. Additional symptom-focused treatment and research attention must be given to girls and abused youth in residential care to maximize their therapeutic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-572
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Affective disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Disruptive behavioral disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Externalizing symptoms
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychotropic medication usage
  • Sexual abuse
  • Substance use disorders
  • Youth in residential treatment programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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